21 Feb 2023

National's Maureen Pugh chastised over climate comments: 'She's gonna be doing a lot of reading'

1:37 pm on 21 February 2023
National MP Maureen Pugh in Select Committee

National MP Maureen Pugh. File photo Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

National MP Maureen Pugh has been pulled into line by the party leadership after telling reporters she has yet to see evidence humans have contributed to climate change.

That was immediately decried by leader Christopher Luxon and deputy Nicola Willis, who offered to give the MP plenty of reading material laying out the science and the evidence.

Pugh's comments come after several severe - and increasingly ferocious - weather events, devastating large swathes of rural New Zealand and causing widespread damage in Auckland city.

It was the first day back at Parliament since Cyclone Gabrielle prompted a postponement of the sitting schedule last week.

MPs this morning were being asked about the cyclone and the impact of climate change. Pugh was asked whether she thought climate change had made the recent cyclones and flooding more extreme.

"Some of the impact I've seen, a lot of the damage that was done, especially around Auckland, was because people weren't allowed to prune and manage trees, that have come down and taken the cliffsides with them."

She did believe in climate change, insisted Pugh, but was yet to be convinced human activity was a contributor.

"It's not what I think, it's what I can prove," she told reporters.

Pugh said she was waiting for a response from Climate Change Minister James Shaw, after "one of our local councils wrote to him and asked him for the evidence before they impacted their ratepayers".

James Shaw

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"I'm not denying climate change, I've seen the evidence of it, we have cooled and warmed, cooled and warmed over millions of years."

Deputy leader Nicola Willis disagreed with Pugh's stance and said she would be raising it with the MP: "It's not for me to explain her comments," Willis said.

"The science is very clear, that climate change is happening, that man-made emissions have contributed to it, and this is an issue we need to rise to."

"Look, I've got a lot she can read - she's gonna be doing a lot of reading."

Deputy Leader of National Party Nicola Willis

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Leader Christopher Luxon immediately decried Pugh's view, and said he would be taking it up with her.

"I disagree strongly. I've seen the evidence. I've seen it upfront."

"I'll be very clear with my team - I have been right from day one of taking the leadership - that climate change is real. We are deeply committed to net carbon zero 2050."

The message to his caucus was clear: "If you're a climate denier or climate minimiser today, that's just not an acceptable position," Luxon said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs